Species invasions

What are the drivers – and effects – of species invasions? 

Invasive species are a leading cause of the biodiversity crisis. Understanding what factors contribute to invasive species’ introduction and spread, how invasion alters ecosystems, and how unwanted species can be controlled is required if we are to conserve vulnerable species.

Beaury et al 2020 figureBy looking at broad patterns across large regions, we can identify fundamental factors that contribute to species invasions. My work has identified a variety of broad patterns in species invasions. For example, analysis of data from more than 150 US National Parks Service sites revealed that diverse plant communities – ones with many native species – are better able to resist invasion by exotic species. Another analysis, this time using data from 45 islands in the West Indies, found that tourism drives rates of plant invasions. Popular destinations like Puerto Rico or the Bahamas had much higher rates of species invasions than would be expected based on their size, while island that are largely disconnected from the global tourism network like Cuba and Haiti had lower rates of species invasions.

These studies aid efforts to control invasive species by identifying pathways of invasion and offering tools to limit plants’ arrival and establishment. The recommendations that come out of this work – to conserve native biodiversity and to harden biosecurity measures at ports of entry – are feasible and tractable ones that could pay great dividends.  These projects also exemplify an exciting new direction in my research, in which I built collaborative networks both across departments at Union College and between institutions to ask complex questions. Finally, they are examples of a recent emphasis in my research on using coding tools to take advantage of Big Data in ecology.

Selected papers:

Brown, M.E., R.O. Prieto, J.D. Corbin, J.H. Ness, R. Borroto-Paez, T.S. McCay, and M.S. Farnsworth. 2021. Pirates of the Caribbean: Plant invasions, tourism, trade, and Cuba’s changing tide. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2311

Beaury, E.M.  J.T. Finn, J.D. Corbin, V. Barr, B.A. Bradley. 2020. Biotic resistance to invasion is ubiquitous across ecosystems of the United States. Ecology Letters 23:476-482.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13446

Corbin, J.D. and C.M. D’Antonio. 2012. Gone but not forgotten?: Invasive plants’ legacies on community and ecosystem properties. Invasive Plant Science and Management 5:117-124.[PDF]

Corbin, J.D. and C.M. D’Antonio. 2011. Abundance and productivity mediate invader effects on nitrogen dynamics in a California grassland. Ecosphere 2:art32 [PDF]

Corbin, J.D. and C.M. D’Antonio. 2010. Not novel, just better: Competition between native and non-native plants that share species traits. Plant Ecology 209: 71-81.[PDF]

Corbin, J.D. and C. M. D’Antonio. 2004. Competition between native and exotic grasses in California: Implications for an historical invasion. Ecology 85:1273-1283. [PDF]